This post was first seen in sioweelin.wordpress.com
*Explicit language alert*
Rather recently I had the misfortune of being one of the targets of a good friend for a business “project” which turned out to be another classic pyramid/MLM scheme. She had invited me out on a pretext that we were just catching up after 2+ years.
The SO and I intuitively had a hunch that something was a tad off course and agreed beforehand to walk right out if it was (1) some religious convert campaign or (2) multilevel marketing recruitment.
Turned out to be harder to do than I thought.
We arrived at the meet point to find a bunch of strangers waiting for us. The polished manners, flashy smiles and overly friendliness was enough to set off alarm bells right from the quick introductions made. No one should be that happy to make my acquaintance, I thought. After about twenty minutes of saccharine-coated trash talking and preamble, they finally dove into this “exciting new business venture”.
While I left that encounter feeling rather crushed that my friend had exploited our friendship for profit, I do understand he/she meant well and was probably pressured by the more senior members in the team to contact personal acquaintances.
As this article on Forbes.com stated, “MLM companies have been a frequent subject of criticism as well as the target of lawsuits. Criticism has focused on (…) encouraging if not requiring salespeople to purchase and use the company’s products, potential exploitation of personal relationships which are used as new sales and recruiting targets.“
Frankly I just felt bad wasting their time trying to convince me when my mind was already made up. I would’ve saved them the trouble if my buddy had told me up front what this was all about
What I found rather difficult was finding a nice way to let these salespeople know that I’m simply not interested. It took a lot of effort to resist turning confrontational and biting back every smart-ass retort that came to mind as:
I was already feeling bummed I got tricked into meeting them that evening,
I was wasting my Friday evening on this (when I could be wasting my Friday evening at home doing nothing)
We were getting increasingly hypoglycemic from delaying dinner for this
These people were becoming more insistent with every polite decline I gave them.
Making their approaches personal, e.g. “Your friend was very thoughtful for inviting you out tonight to listen to us (when I wouldn’t have come out at all if I knew what this was about, but I was too polite to point that out); she wanted you to have the same opportunity” They took advantage of my reluctance to cause any offence or upset to my good friend.
Also, this statement came up quite often, “There are plenty of successful doctors out there who do this for passive income.“
One can’t help but feel that there is plenty left they’re not telling you. Cash backs and passive income? I’m way too much of a skeptic to buy that sort of thing.
I found myself increasingly beleaguered by their passive aggressive approach and insistence that I signed up now. The resistance I put up at various points in the meeting without resorting to rudeness included:
Appealing for more time to think it over before making a decision, and then distracting them by asking if I can apply later or by some other way.
Quoting my mum, who really actually did warn me never to be pressured into signing anything in any circumstances.
Emphasizing repeatedly that I’m not comfortable making pressured decisions and “I hope you’ll understand that”
Acknowledging their time and effort in offering me this wonderful new opportunity, but “I really need time to think about it”
Pointing out that while this is a great idea, not everyone will thrive in it. (ie I have ZERO business sense)
Repeat each of the above at least three more times.
There was even one instance where I let my bitch side slip through and challenged them with a difficult, uncomfortable question that left them a little unsettled. They recovered admirably after that.
By the end, I was a hair’s breadth away from turning into Malcolm Tucker from The Thick Of It.
At the end of the day, I applaud them for their persistence and unfazed spirit. Now if we can just channel that same tenacity and passion into worthy causes like obliterating nuclear weapons or racial and gender equality, or fighting for a transparent and meritorious government, the world might just be heading in the right direction.
So, here are some ways I thought would be good to try the next time you catch yourself in such a tricky situation, MLM, or otherwise. The basis of it is to keep things friendly and and always end on a positive note.
(1) Explain politely that you’d prefer to keep relationships away from business. “Sorry, I don’t mix friends and work/business.”
(2) Suggest that you know someone who is genuinely interested, but do NOT volunteer your friend’s contact details without his/her permission. That’s just plain unethical. Take down the salesperson’s contacts instead. Refrain from volunteering your own. (A mistake I made while trying to get them off my back) “If I come across anyone who is interested, I’ll know who to send him/her to. Thanks for letting me know.”
(3) You might be fearful of losing a friend for refusing their sales pitch or saying no too often, but it was impolite of your friend to exploit your friendship for their profit in the first place. If the sales pressure continues, I don’t see why you don’t have any less right to be just as aggressive in your response. Repeated firm no’s and “Look, I love you mate, but I’m uncomfortable with this topic. Can we talk about something else now, please? That would be fantastic, thanks.”
(4) Make it about YOUR stand on this, not theirs. “I’m not accusing this of being a scam, or a cult, I’m just genuinely not interested.” or “I really am not keen on this, please respect my feelings on this front. I hope you’ll understand, and I wish you all the best in this venture.”or “I’m glad this is working out for you but I’m really not interested.”
(5) Inform them that “I’m already loving what I do full-time and I don’t want to take energy or time away from it.”
(6) Explaining that you’re not keen because your *insert relative/friend here* got in too deep and is now in deep waters and debts is just inviting for trouble because they’ll launch into an elocution of why it isn’t so. You’re giving them something to argue with. Save yourself time, and do No. Steps 1-5.
(7) If said salesperson persists, repeat Steps 1-5 over and over punctuated by uncomfortable silence. People HATE uncomfortable silence.
These tips may sound easy, but it gets pretty difficult to remember how to deploy them when you’re ambushed by a whole guerrilla of these salespeople as I was, and they KNOW their strength lies in numbers and in brutally overwhelming the victim.
Last advice, if you are caught in the same rut as I was, don’t take it personally. It’s all part of their methods: starting out friendly and engaging you actively and once you’ve thawed out enough, they’ll launch into how this vacuum cleaner somehow saved their grandma’s life. They do this to every other potential customer, so nothing personal, really.
All the best!